Summary: What does it mean for us to "conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ"?
Judi and I have been doing a bit of re-decorating over the past few months – and I’m not referring to the diet we’ve been on! On a couple of occasions I have been to the Hardware shop and asked them to mix up a special colour for me. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched this being done. In case you’ve never had that fascinating opportunity let me describe it for you! First you show them what colour you want. Then they take the 5 litre can of pure white paint and put it on an apparatus that looks like a miniature roundabout. Then, following a formula, they add tiny drops of colour. Now what you’ve got is 5 litres of white paint with a couple of blobs of colour floating on the top. Next they put the can into a tumbling machine which whirrs it this way and that. A couple of minutes later they open the can and hey presto you’ve got your 5 litres of coloured paint.
So why am I telling you this? Well strangely enough it was the image that came to mind as I was going through the readings for today. The one phrase that seemed to leap out at me was from Philippians, verse 27; ‘Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.’ So you might ask what has that got to do with mixing paint? Well let me tell you the strange way my brain works!
One of the most difficult things I believe we have to come to terms with as Christians is the fact that we are not wholly evil. Of course we know that we do wrong, we are not perfect, therefore logic tells us therefore that we are evil. But if we look around, and even look at ourselves, there are very few people that we would call wholly evil. It would almost be easier if we were. If we were completely evil then we’d know exactly how we are likely to think; how we are likely to behave and most all how much we needed God’s grace and forgiveness. The trouble is most of us, by any human standard, are far from completely evil. In fact, to be honest, we’re all pretty good. We’re a lot like that can of paint before it gets put into the whirring machine. Most of us is white with just a few blobs of something not quite right floating round. We might tell the odd lie; swear in a moment of anger; occasionally take advantage of someone in a weaker position to ourselves; squeeze a questionable rand out of the tax man; harbour the odd lustful thought as we eye some scantily-clad bather on the TV or on the beach… of course the list is endless. But in themselves there is very little that we would we would put into the category of radically evil. Now put us into the machine of life and whirr us around. Those tiny blobs of assorted things that we do wrong begin to split up and mix together permeating the whole of our life. We are no longer pure white but, on the other hand we’re certainly not black. But the fact is that those little things that we do wrong literally colour our lives.
So what has that got to do with our verse, ‘conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’? Well quite simply what colour do you think is representative of the gospel of Christ? What colour should our lives be if we are to conduct ourselves worthy of that gospel? There’s no need to brace yourselves for an harangue on the need to be perfect. We all recognize that that will never be possible in this life. But what this is, is a call to recognize the role that our behaviour plays in representing Christ to the world.
And here again I want us to appreciate right up front that it is the subtle things in our behaviour that make all the difference. Few of us run around constantly losing our temper, lying and cheating, or swearing and blaspheming. But just as a few tiny blobs of colour can change 5 litres of white paint, so a few aspects of our behaviour, and our character, can change the way people look at us.
Of course there are many aspects of our behaviour that we could highlight. But I want us to look at just a couple which are prompted by our readings this morning.
Let’s start with our Exodus story that we heard this morning of the Israelites building a golden calf to worship.
OK. Own up. How many of you have a secret golden calf at home!?! Of course you don’t. But how many of you have a secret golden putter? A secret golden photo scrapbook? A secret golden television?